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The Home Office Setup You Need to Stay Productive This Winter

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This is a guest post by Kayla Matthews. She is a productivity blogger and efficiency enthusiast. You can find her on ProductivityTheory.com, on The Huffington Post, and on Google+ and Twitter.


When temperatures drop outside, human instinct tells you to curl up and hibernate for the winter. This can be problematic for anyone pursuing a career, but it’s even more of an issue if you work from home.

It’s one thing to fight off a nap and remain productive when you’re in the professional environment of an office, but it’s quite another to convince yourself not to take a “lunch nap” when your warm, cozy bed sits just a few feet away from your desk.

One of the best ways to ensure that you remain happy, healthy and productive throughout the winter season is to create a workspace where you thrive.

You might be surprised to learn that the setting where you clock in is actually just as important as your work ethic when it comes to productivity, particularly during those dreary winter months. But you don’t have to take this statement at face value.

Read on to learn why you should consider jazzing up your workspace this winter.

Your Environment Matters

From the temperature to the quality of the air in your office, studies found that the physical environment greatly affects employees and their ability to work. Various researchers have looked at components of the workplace setting, including lighting, noise level and the aforementioned factors.

In most cases, they’ve discovered that employees work best when they are happy with the temperature and the quality of the air, when they feel alert and comfortable in the glow of lighting fixtures and when they aren’t constantly distracted by ambient noise.

The same is true for your home office. When you work from home you are, in some ways, your own boss, which means you’re also responsible for the office environment. You can’t argue with research that shows that revamping your workspace could create a happier and more productive work life.

A Workspace Needs Four Fundamentals

The concept of a physical office that drives production has gained so much traction among major companies that it has created a new job title: “work futurist.” These experts consult with companies to create atmospheres that boost employee satisfaction and job performance. One such expert reveals in a blog post for Forbes that every workspace, whether it’s at home or in a conventional office, needs to include four things for the best results: opportunities to focus, collaborate, learn and socialize.

At home, this means creating an office where you can really hone in on what you’re doing but remain connected to the outside world. Your company will likely provide the tools to do this, whether it’s via a chat app, phone or email.

However, you can also take steps to make it simpler to engage with coworkers and concentrate on your work when you create a home workspace, especially for the winter months.

An Unconventional Approach Could Boost Creativity

If you think sitting at a desk in a hard char is the only way to get anything done, think again. Many employers are starting to explore alternatives that, surprisingly, make employees even more productive.

For example, some offices provide standing desks that allow staff members to get on their feet during the day. Others create collaborative spaces where employees can go for a much-needed break.

Some of these techniques might be easier to emulate than others at home, but at least consider the effect that an unconventional approach to working could have on your productivity.

When You Engage in Healthy Habits, Productivity Follows

When it’s cold outside, it’s easy to become complacent with your exercise routine and diet. You might think: What do these have to do with workplace productivity? The answer is just about everything. When you abandon the healthy lifestyle that you engage in during the warmer months, your body goes right into hibernation mode along with your mind.

It’s important to stock your home office with healthy snacks — or at least your fridge — and to create a space in which exercise is encouraged. Just a 10-minute yoga break every few hours could be enough to keep the blood pumping and your body-brain connection strong. You might be surprised by the effect that fitness and nutrition have on your wintertime work ethic.

Clearing Clutter Could Stave off the Winter Blues

Most people wait until the spring to get a handle on the clutter that accumulates in their home office, but it’s important to stay on top of it year-round.

When you allow stacks of paper and office supplies to build up around your desktop computer, it creates an aesthetically displeasing workspace. The simple act of keeping your desk clean and inviting could make all the difference, especially when you’re having a hard time making the “commute” from your warm bed to your desk chair.

Now that you understand why it’s so vital to create a comfortable home office, you might be asking: How do I actually make this happen? With the proper assortment of gadgets, it’s easy to give your home office a makeover. Here are 9 items you should add to your home office ASAP to make it a more pleasant place to work.

1. Heated Computer Mouse

As mentioned above, the temperature in your workspace plays a profound role in the number of emails you can sift through or reports you can generate. So frozen fingertips have the ability to delay any task you begin.

One simple solution is to purchase a heated mouse, like this specially contoured mouse that emanates infrared heat. Happy fingertips equal speedier replies to emails from your coworkers, which means you’ll power through more work in a shorter amount of time. You can thank your mouse later.

2. Pair of Heated Slippers

Just like your hands, your feet can quickly sink to seemingly subzero temperatures since they’re one of your outermost appendages. It would be kind of weird to stick your heated mouse beneath your toes, so perhaps you should invest in some heated slippers instead.

These cozy contraptions plug into the wall or even a USB port in your computer to heat up and keep your toes nice and warm. Plus, they come in adorable styles like the Narwhal from your favorite holiday movies.

If you prefer something a little lower-tech, you can also buy slippers that are filled with a material that retains heat and simply stick them in the microwave for a minute or two.

3. Coffee Mug Warmer

Another surefire way to keep your nose to the grindstone is by supplying that nose — or rather your entire body — with a steady stream of caffeine. But when you’re working from home and trying to save on heating costs, your cup of java might cool off pretty quickly. Keep your mug of joe piping hot when you treat yourself to a coffee mug warmer.

These small ceramic circles use electricity to warm your cup of coffee. When you’re working from home as snow softly falls outside your window, a hot, caffeine-infused beverage might be the only thing standing between you and a 15-minute nap break. So make sure you have your coffee tin fully stocked and a coffee mug warmer next to your computer before the snowy season begins. You’ll thank yourself.

4. Space Heater

If the combination of a heated mouse, heated slippers and a coffee mug warmer still aren’t quite enough to keep your workspace at a comfortable temperature, you have one last option: a space heater.

Perhaps the image that comes to mind when you think “space heater” is a radiator surrounded by seemingly bare wires that flicker to life ominously, threatening to burst into flame at any moment. But this image is really nothing like your modern space heater.

Today, space heaters are chic, compact and totally safe. Even if your “home office” is actually just a desk tucked in the corner of the master bedroom, you’ll be able to find a small and powerful space heater that gives off enough toasty rays to keep you comfy from head to toe. This modest gadget will help to keep you cozy, happy and focused on work from nine to five.

5. “Sun” Light

Perhaps it’s not physical warmth that evades you, but rather the figurative warmth you receive when the summer sun shines down on you.

Believe it or not, contemporary technology has actually found a way to package this and bring it indoors. “Sun” lights, as they’re called, give off a glow that closely mimics natural light. So how is this different from any other desk lamp?

Anyone who suffers from the winter blues knows that soaking up a dose of sunlight can do wonders to reverse the effects of a gloomy, cold day.

When you set up a sun lamp right at your desk, you don’t even need to step away from the computer in order to do this. Simply switch on the lamp and bask in the warm, energizing glow that it provides. In a matter of a minute or two, you’ll be rejuvenated and ready to dive back into your work.

6. Set of Buckyballs

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” You’ve probably heard the saying, but perhaps you’ve never actually believed it or put it into action. Today is the day to change that.

Just like maintaining a warm temperature and low noise level, taking a break and letting your mind wander can actually make it work more efficiently afterward. Since you probably don’t have time to stop for a round of bowling or tennis in the middle of the day, playing with a set of Buckyballs is basically the next best thing.

This unique desktop toy already enjoys a cult following in the corporate world thanks to its ability to ease workplace anxieties and help employees refocus on the task at hand. Buckyballs are small, magnetic balls that come packed into a neat cube.

You can unravel that cube any way you like and create a strand of Buckyballs, a sheet of Buckyballs or any other shape you can dream up. The nearly mindless act of creating and destroying can help halt a racing mind and provide a pleasant interlude to your day. A set of Buckyballs essentially works like a stress ball for the modern age.

7. Houseplants

Remember when you read that air quality can impact your happiness and productivity? Maybe that got you wondering how, short of installing an expensive air filtration system, you can ensure that the air you breathe at home powers a good work ethic.

One way is to add a houseplant to the mix. Many plants naturally filter the air, returning high-quality oxygen to your weary winter brain.

What’s more, feng shui gurus believe that plants with circular leaves actually have the ability to soothe, whereas plants whose leaves shoot skyward such as bamboo energize the onlooker.

Choose which type of houseplant would best suit your workspace and pick one up at the supermarket or a local garden store. If you’re new to the green-thumb thing, ask a staffer for help finding a plant that’s easy to keep alive, like a succulent.

8. Stand-Up Desk

As researchers continue to unearth the dangers of sitting all day, more and more office workers opt to stand at their desks. The belief is that standing versus sitting helps promote blood flow and could reduce the risk of diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle.

Making the switch could also help you be more productive at home, so think about swapping out your standard desk for a version that allows you to stand.

Many of these standing desks include a foot rest or “fidget swing,” which allows you to kick your foot back and forth while you work. This small act of movement could help to keep you alert and energized during the day. If you don’t want to invest in one of these desks, it’s easy to create a makeshift standing desk by simply ditching your chair and adding a large box beneath your computer.

9. Bluetooth Speaker

Up-tempo tunes can also trigger endorphins to flow through your brain, and those with the luxury of working from home don’t have to worry about disturbing their cube-mate with some soft jazz. Take full advantage of your work situation by outfitting your desk with a Bluetooth speaker.

As the speaker pumps out the classical music or soothing coffeehouse mix, your brain will receive happy signals that make it much easier to prepare for a big conference call. Don’t feel like you have to invest in top-of-the-line speakers for your home office, either.

A small, portable speaker should be enough to bring the happy vibes. Simply set it up next to your computer and pull up a playlist on your phone that inspires both focus and warm and fuzzy feelings.

Now that you understand the importance of creating a comfortable home office environment, it’s time to put what you’ve learned into action. Start thinking about the ways you can update your space in order to stay happy, healthy and productive as you work remotely this winter.

Perhaps your home office makeover will be as simple as purchasing a heated mouse and a set of warming slippers.

Maybe you’ll welcome a new officemate in the form of a fuzzy dancing robot. Or you might opt to bring the summer months to your winter desk by buying a sunlight desk lamp and keeping it switched on from nine to five each day.

No matter how you decide to jazz up your office, keep in mind the reason you’re doing it.

Remember that the environment in which you work can greatly enhance or detract from your work ethic, so playing some festive holiday tunes or taking a Buckyballs break could actually help you move up the corporate ladder!


This is a guest post by Kayla Matthews. She is a productivity blogger and efficiency enthusiast. You can find her on ProductivityTheory.com, on The Huffington Post, and on Google+ and Twitter.

Images by Spencer SeloverMary Whitneyrawpixel.comPixabay and Porapak Apichodilok

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